Adelson loses libel lawsuit alleging he condoned Macau casino prostitution

Accusation Adelson condoned prostitution in Macau casinos was 'protected speech'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 October, 2013, 5:15am

Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate and prominent US Republican Party donor, has lost a US$60 million libel lawsuit that centred on an accusation that he had condoned prostitution in his casinos in Macau.

At issue was an article published in July last year by the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) on its website that sought to dissuade then-US presidential candidate Mitt Romney and other Republicans from accepting Adelson's allegedly "dirty" and "tainted" money.

It cited reports about an accusation that the Las Vegas Sands chief executive "personally approved of prostitution" in his Macau properties.

US District Judge Paul Oetken said the article constituted protected speech and was not libellous.

The accusation, which Adelson denied, had surfaced in a wrongful termination lawsuit against him by fired Las Vegas Sands executive Steven Jacobs. It was discussed in an Associated Press article about that lawsuit, to which the NJDC provided a hyperlink in its article online.

Lin Wood, a lawyer for Adelson, said the decision denied his client "the basic right of trial by jury". He also said Las Vegas Sands has a "no tolerance" policy for prostitution.

"The statement by the National Jewish Democratic Council at issue in this case remains a bald-faced lie," said Wood.

Adelson, 80, is worth US$28 billion and is the 11th-richest American, Forbes magazine said this month. He has donated tens of millions of dollars to Republican candidates and organisations in the 2012 election cycle.

He claimed the NJDC article was intended to advance the group's political interests by "assassinating" his character.

But in a 57-page decision, Oetken said Adelson failed to show that the defendants, who included NJDC chairman Marc Stanley, acted with actual malice or reckless disregard of the truth.

The judge said the expressions "dirty money" and "tainted money" were imprecise and could not be proven true or false, and in context constituted protected expressions of opinion.

"Protecting defendants who hyperlink to their sources is good public policy, as it fosters the facile dissemination of knowledge on the internet," Oetken wrote. "The increasing access to information should decrease the need for defamation suits."

Stanley said he was pleased with the decision. "Adelson was trying to bully us with a lawsuit to suppress our speech," he said.